????(G-DRAGON) | Human AdrenalineF.OUND ISSUE > #38 October, 2013 / 2013.10.16 (original article), translation by @kwonaventure
Notes from the translator: The original article was published in October 2013 for GD’s “Coup d’Etat” promotions. Please forgive any inaccuracies in translation, as there were some parts which I found ambiguous and difficult to understand.
“Doesn’t it just look great?” President Yang Hyunsuk asked me. G-Dragon’s final world tour concert had just finished, and we were talking about the ‘Coup d’Etat’ music video. It was a question, but it didn’t seem to require an answer. If someone had asked me this just a few months ago, instead of answering I probably would’ve just laughed it off with an expression like, “I don’t know what to say.” But I could no longer do that. Because three hours ago, GD unveiled his ‘Coup d’Etat’ and ‘Crooked’ music videos at the encore of his final tour show in Seoul, and I couldn’t deny that they were at the level of “just looking great.” That’s how GD made his comeback. With his second solo album, ‘Coup d’Etat,’ full of both amazing sound and visuals.
I’d been wondering about the prevalence of frivolous music coming out lately. I was sick and tired of the kind of soulless music that went by so quickly that I didn’t even have time to react.
“I miss the kind of hip hop with a beat you could ride, and a groove to which you could move your body,” is what I thought while sitting and zoning out at a club on a weekend in August. Then I heard ‘Coup d’Etat.’ No, it’d be more accurate to say I “saw” it, since the music video came out first. The next time I zoned out was on September 1st, at the Olympic Stadium where GD’s <One of a Kind> world tour final show was held. It was because I was stunned. A heavy and slow beat, GD was reborn in that music video, which was understated and yet full of unorthodox images. The four tracks he released the day after his concert and the rest of the music he released was also like that. GD is someone who does hip hop that appeals to the masses with a progressive attitude, but the album he released this time had a great sense of beat. It’s simpler than any album he’s released before, but it’s powerful and feels neatly refined, to the point that it’s hard to believe that he completed it such a short time after releasing his ‘One of a Kind’ mini-album last year.
While listening to the ‘Coup d’Etat’ album, I reminisced multiple times about the era that Madonna released her ‘Ray of Light’ album and ‘Frozen’ MV, thereby going from a sexy pop singer into an evolving contemporary artist. GD didn’t completely revamp his original self, but he cleverly chose a method by which he donned new clothes. He quickly revealed the growth of this idol star as an evolutionary product from debut until 8 years later, in a way that exceeded expectations. He succeeded in a coup against himself, as the result of challenging himself about what constitutes “GD.”
F.OUND: How are you? Busy?
GD: I started promotions so I’m very busy. I was filming my MV even while touring, so I was continuously busy.
F.OUND: It’s your second regular album. How do you feel?
GD: I feel relieved.
F.OUND: After unveiling ‘Coup d’Etat’ at your concert, you said, “I’m very satisfied with this album. It’s the album I like the most.” Why did you say that?
GD: First, because it’s the most recent album. I also spent a long time preparing it. I also think each song was finished to a high standard. There weren’t any songs that were made just to fill out the tracklist; all of the songs were carefully made. In the past, I had songs I really liked which I couldn’t put on my album, but it wasn’t like that this time. Moreover, the songs were well-received so I was really happy. My personal level of satisfaction with it is also high.
F.OUND: But it seems you didn’t spend that long preparing it? As soon as ‘One of a Kind’ album came out, you did the BIGBANG tour, and then while doing your solo tour you made your album.
GD: It’s because I was preparing this album even before the mini-album came out. Originally, there were no plans to do the mini-album, because it was supposed to come out as a regular album. Around that time, a lot of the songs weren’t finished in detail. I chose the songs that were okay to release and made a mini-album, but in reality there were many more songs that I’d been working on. ‘Runaway,’ ‘Who You?’, ‘Window,’ ‘Nilliria,’ etc. had already been made, and ‘Shake the World’ is a song originally made 2 years ago. Of course, the songs in ‘Coup d’Etat’ are versions that went through multiple revisions before being published.
F.OUND: You said that every time you make an album, you feel like you’re submitting it for homework check. You had confidence about presenting your homework this time, right?
GD: Actually, before I finished it, I wasn’t confident. I had a lot of worries like, “what’s the correct way to do it?” I think it’s because it was an album I’d been working on for a really long time. I am who I am. That’s what I always say, but that’s just because people might think I’ve lost my musical sense. If I think my music is great, but people don’t like it when they listen to it, then that’d mean I lost my musical sense. Even if I thought I was making a good album, it’ll still get appraised based on the external result.
Normally I don’t really dwell on those things, but this time I found myself worrying about them. If the reaction to this album wasn’t good, and it didn’t do well on the charts, then I would’ve thought, “Ah, maybe now I’ll have to deliberately create music that caters to the public’s taste.” That’s why it was difficult. But fortunately, even the songs I thought would be less accessible to the public are receiving a good reaction.
F.OUND: Which songs did you think were less accessible?
GD: ‘Nilliriya.’ And I didn’t think ‘Coup d’Etat’ would be an easy song to listen to, either.
F.OUND: It’s definitely not easy. It has a really slow and heavy beat.
GD: Yes. That’s why I thought it’d be less accessible. If I look at the album as a whole, I can’t really call it something that appeals to the masses. That’s why it seems the musical standard has risen.
F.OUND: GD’s standard? Or the listeners’?
GD: The listeners’. I think their understanding with regards to musical genres has broadened. It seems like they understand that you can listen to one song in this way, and a different song in a different way. I really like that.
F.OUND: It’s a well-made album. How was your collaboration with Diplo?
GD: I’ve known Diplo since working with him on the GD&TOP album. We met every time he came to Korea, and nowadays we’re like friends. When I started making this album, I wanted to use his beat, so originally ‘Shake the World’ was written as a song fitting Diplo’s style. It’s a Diplo-like track.
F.OUND: Because it has a fast beat?
GD: It was much faster (than my other songs). I found that I couldn’t really write lyrics for that beat. And in the midst of struggling to finish the song, it seemed that Diplo had given away that track to someone else. I thought that song and I weren’t meant to be. In the end, ‘Shake the World’’s fate was up in the air. Later, when Diplo and Bauer decided to send another track right after they released ‘Harlem Shake’, I thought the track would be similar to that song. But I found out it was reaaa~lly hip hop. I really liked it, so instead of matching it to ‘Shake the World,’ I made something else from scratch. The track has a really powerful feeling, so the word that came to mind when I first heard it was “coup d’etat.” In the end, ‘Shake the World’ became its own song and I wrote the rap exclusively for it.
F.OUND: I’ve interviewed Diplo for F.OUND magazine before. At the time, I thought he felt like a really smart individual, and when I heard the track ‘Coup d’Etat’ I over-reacted like, “He’s a genius!” (Laughs) Setting a music video to that kind of music really made it into an artwork.
GD: I think it’s great, too.
F.OUND: I heard a rumour that for this album, you spent 3 days and night in the studio. Which track were you agonizing over?
GD: It wasn’t one track in particular. You know that the album’s release was constantly delayed. Actually, it hasn’t even come out as of today (September 11; GD’s album was officially released on September 13). The reason is because I couldn’t sort out the final production work on the album. It was hard for the people who were waiting for it, and it became hard for me, too. I thought that it’d be finished with just a bit more work, but while working on it, I’d eat and go to some schedule, and by the time I came back it was already midnight or 1am, and in the end I’d only be able to stay in the studio for about 4 hours… I thought that if days like that kept repeating, it wouldn’t work out, so I resolved not to leave the studio. I brought my sleeping clothes and slept at the studio, and also ate my meals at the company while working, and then worked some more. I did this and it worked out. It also shortened the time it took.
F.OUND: Among the people that you worked with on this album, is Teddy the one you’ve worked with the longest? Now your position has changed a lot, so I’d assume you guys use a different system, but how did you work together this time? In the album credits, Teddy’s name shows up a lot.
GD: We haven’t really changed a lot about how we work this time. Rather, it’s different from how it was in the past because now Teddy constantly comes to Korea. When he worked on BIGBANG’s ‘Always’ or ‘Remember’ in the United States, Teddy-hyung would do all the production work and we’d write the rap lyrics. We’d progress little by little by talking over the phone or through web chat, but we thought since it was Teddy-hyung, then just being able to work with him was good.
But I started working with him more when I was working on my solo album. Back then, I definitely put a lot of effort into living up to the name of being a “producer.” If Teddy-hyung would say, “How’s this?” and throw me a track, I’d work on it and let him listen to it again so he could give me advice, and that became our working system. Now, I get the feeling that we’re collaborating as producers. Because he’s someone I see more than I do my own family, we’re quite close, and we can’t really help but write a lot of songs together. Of course, he still remains a mentor-like hyung to me. He tells me what I can do and what I shouldn’t do from a third party’s perspective. Because he’s watching over me, I feel that I can produce music while maintaining a balance regarding whether to cross the line or not.
Recently, after we finish writing a track together, hyung leaves me to do the music directing by myself. Maybe because letting him listen to the production post-directing was really nerve-wracking in the past? Maybe it’s because we’ve worked like that a lot, but now when we finish songs, there are more occasions when we enjoy each other’s work. I’m earnestly trying to create the feeling of being a partner. Of course I’m also learning a lot, as always. (Laughs)
F.OUND: You performed ‘Nilliriya’ with Missy Elliot before the release of your album. What did you guys talk about while preparing your stage?
GD: She’s more shy and introverted than I imagined. From looking at her performances on stage or the way she raps, I thought she’d have the opposite personality, but she’s really quiet and laughs well. I was surprised. As soon as I landed in the US leading up to our performance, I went to meet her. She suggested that we should have a meeting about ideas for our stage, and sent all the staff members away. Only Missy and I remained, and the two of us shared our opinions. We didn’t even reveal what we were planning to the people close to us.
Missy said that because it was my song, we’d do it how I wanted it. Because she said that she’d match and follow me, I felt burdened. I told her something like, “I hope we can do these things in this way,” and she said to me, “I got it. First, go get some sleep. I’ll figure it out with the dancers. Come check it out later.” I guess I looked really exhausted, having just arrived in America and going straight to a meeting. I went the next day and saw that the dancers had figured a lot of the moves out, and we could go up on stage.
One thing that surprised me was that Missy was totally different on the rehearsal stage compared to how she was off-stage or in the practice room. With the mic in her hand, she gave a powerful performance just like in the past. Actually, aside from discussing things related to our stage, we couldn’t talk much. Of course, I told her things like that I was her fan, and that I really liked her. Well, because I really was her fan.
F.OUND: That’s right. When I saw the broadcast, I thought, “GD is probably thinking about the past; he can definitely feel proud of himself.”
GD: Of course, I felt incredibly proud. I think I’ll remember it for a long time.
The interview with GD progressed late into the night while he was pre-recording for <M-Countdown>. While he was recording the three songs, ‘Coup d’Etat,’ ‘Black,’ and ‘Crooked,’ I had to keep turning the recording device on and off while GD was getting his makeup done, changing his wardrobe, and getting his hair styled. I worried about whether he’d be able to talk candidly considering the hectic situation in the waiting room, but fortunately GD’s answers were neither short nor superficial. As always, he sparkled whenever the topic of music came up. When he left the waiting room to record, I took the opportunity to throw out all the trivial questions I’d come up with, because it seemed it’d be better to ask just one serious question and receive an elaborate and thoughtful answer, than the alternative.
Fortunately, there were still many discussion topics pertaining to him that I remembered but hadn’t yet written down. Among them was something he’d said last March, at the press conference right before the start of his solo tour. When asked about the difference between his first and second solo concerts, he replied, “The first solo concert was too idol-like.” I had some inkling of what he meant, but I wanted to hear his reason directly, so I asked him about it again.
F.OUND: Why did you say your first concert was “too idol-like”?
GD: Well, now that I’ve finished my solo tour, I have a different feeling about it. Four years ago, I didn’t feel that I was standing on stage as an artist. At that time, people used favorable adjectives to describe me, but internally I didn’t feel like my identity as an “artist” had been established. Maybe I have to call it a transition period? I guess it’d be more accurate to say that I was an idol dreaming of being an artist, and thus an idol who continuously made music with that goal in mind. To that end, I made music, embellished my stages, and performed, but throughout all that, I couldn’t erase that vague feeling (of not being an artist). I also felt this while doing the BIGBANG tour, but during this solo tour I had confidence that I was going on stage and touring as an artist.
F.OUND: What do you think brought about that change?
GD: Idol concerts have a certain framework. Idols absolutely have to film a parody. Everyone also intersperses funny things throughout the performance. They also dress up as girls, or sing senior singers’ songs in a funny way. The fans like it and find it interesting, but at some point I found myself thinking, “this isn’t going to work anymore.” It wasn’t just me, but the other BIGBANG members felt the same way. We didn’t need to keep doing things the exact same way. If we took the contents of these performances overseas, the people there wouldn’t be able to understand. There’s a limit to being able to explain things through subtitles.
F.OUND: It does feel like they wouldn’t understand. I can’t understand it either. (Laughs)
GD: Not understanding is one thing. Each of us now feels that it’s okay to just look cool from beginning to end. Look at the performances of foreign artists. They’re cool from beginning to end, without incorporating fun or cute elements. We each changed a lot in this respect. The reason that we worked with world-renowned creative directors to prepare our concert stages was because we wanted to learn those things. We thought that if we worked with those people, we’d be able to learn how foreign artists accomplish those kinds of shows, and understand which things we’re lacking. I learned, and learned, and learned, and there are things I realized while while doing this solo tour, as well. That’s why I said the “idol” feeling was so strong during my first concert. Because I was living in that world.
F.OUND: It seems that back then, you were more focused on some other elements rather than the music itself.
GD: Yes. The performance was too entertainment-minded. Of course, I go on stage in the role of an entertainer now as well, but I guess you could say that back then it was more like a variety show?
F.OUND: It seems that you’ve done a lot of thinking while doing a world tour by yourself.
GD: I’ve felt these things a lot since doing the world tour as BIGBANG. Overseas stages are different.
A few years ago, I talked with GD about his success. “I’m not interested in Billboard…” he muttered dismissively back then. It was unexpected, especially because these were words coming from an idol star who enjoyed top popularity in South Korea and Asia since debut. Whether he lacked greed, or really didn’t want to take risks, I neither knew nor could I understand it. This time when I asked him about it, GD gave me another nonchalant, ‘anything would be good’ answer, saying, “Of course, it’d be great to get onto Billboard, but I really don’t do music with that goal in mind. In Korea as well, I didn’t do music with the intention of getting to 1st place on some chart. Of course, it’s great when I get 1st place, and it’d be great to enter the Billboard chart. Is there anyone who wouldn’t like it?”
Now, the world’s become smaller, and it isn’t just a dream to talk about advancing into the US market to that extent. Stacy Walker and Travis Payne worked together as creative directors on GD’s <One of a Kind> tour, and they gave a positive appraisal of GD’s chances of expanding into the US market, saying, “Among GD’s discography, songs like ‘Heartbreaker’ and ‘MichiGO’ would be good enough to succeed in the American market.” While finishing his tour, GD performed on stage with Missy Elliot and received a collaboration proposal from Pharrell Williams.
It isn’t hard now to foresee that GD might become the actual business beneficiary of YG’s longstanding efforts to break into the US market. YG will welcome a new period of growth as a company with an artist of GD’s calibre, and GD himself will enjoy the effects of that synergy. Although GD himself is hesitant to talk about advancing to the US market, he said that he’d like to go there to learn, experience, watch, and show his own work. It’s a natural continuation of his efforts until now, and his perspective on advancing into the coveted US market is only natural.
F.OUND: You’re preparing to break into the US market in a number of ways, aren’t you?
GD: Not particularly. Of course, I’m prepared to go on stage there. But I’m not really thinking of advancing into the US market, because you have to use the language precisely, and I can’t do that. Even if I make the music, I think that the first step to preparation should be using that country’s language, and that’s something I’m lacking.
F.OUND: You can’t make music without using the language?
GD: Of course I think that in PSY’s case, he received many other opportunities because he can speak English well. Um, actually I’m not really sure about PSY-hyung’s case. I think it’s correct to take Korean cultural products abroad, but music isn’t something people end up listening to briefly. There’s interest in the lyrics, and if – for example – those lyrics are about love, then I’d imagine there might be someone who receives solace from those lyrics based on their situation. But if they can’t relate to the lyrics? Of course, people might feel refreshed listening to the song at first. But isn’t it an artist’s job to convey something through music? When you listen to music, I think you have to embrace the lyrics, as well.
F.OUND: You’re saying that you’re unprepared with regards to that?
GD: I’m saying that I definitely need to prepare a lot more.
F.OUND: What do you think when you look at PSY’s success?
GD: “Woah, so it can turn out this way.” I was definitely amazed. I think PSY-hyung was amazed too? Apparently if you try for it, then opportunities like this can arise. Whether back then or now, there were no international hit songs, and the music scene itself was boring. Because so much music was coming out, people got sick of listening to it and learning it. In the midst of that, the ‘Macarena’-like ‘Gangnam Style’ was something that people could cheerfully dance to and enjoy, and it gave them a lot of pleasure even if they couldn’t understand the lyrics. That’s the power of music, which I thought was incredible.
F.OUND: It’s not an exaggeration to say that everything pertaining to GD seems to become an issue. As a star who interacts with the public, do you think that you have to have some moral character or feeling of responsibility?
GD: Now, I think I have to be like that to some degree. I think because the things that happened when I was younger were also less serious, I could resolve them how I did in the past. But now, I’m no longer that young. When I go on a music broadcast like today’s, I am the most senior artist among the promoting idols. Ah, if I’m a senior and I’m an adult in people’s eyes, then I think I have to uphold the dignity appropriate to that position.
F.OUND: “Dignity” is a great word.
GD: On the other hand, I don’t really think about upholding it musically. I do music the way I want to, but it’s true that ordinarily I have to show an exemplary outward appearance, because it’s Korea. I don’t know about overseas. Anyway, those things have a lot of influence in Korea. It seems that I’ve grown a lot without even realizing it. Things like my position or the perspective with which I view people have changed.
F.OUND: Didn’t you have some occasion for change?
GD: Recently, there were a few times when I thought, from the position of an observer, “GD had those sides to him?” Isn’t it because I’ve slowly gotten older? It’s not that I learned something specific somewhere, or that something specific changed. I’m just naturally experiencing things and changing as I get older, like when you meet similar people but experience different things.
F.OUND: Those things build up internally and it seems they can be seen externally as well.
GD: Yes, probably. I think I’m changing little by little.
F.OUND: What kind of leader is GD, as the leader of BIGBANG?
GD: A tough leader on the inside, and a leader who looks nice on the outside. That’s how I appeared in the past. I think that was because the more vicious I was to the other members, the more organized we looked on the outside. Now, we’re all growing older and developing careers in different fields. It’s hard to see each other often, but when we actually meet I guess I should describe it like “artist versus artist”? Rather than the feeling of working as a leader with my team, it feels more like a collaboration. That’s why even when we’re working, it’s more like we pleasantly arrive at a consensus rather than me telling them what to do. I don’t know how it looks from the outside, but in any case, it’s changed somewhat.
F.OUND: Seungri also did his solo promotions recently. I heard that you sneakily went to Seungri’s fansign event. Why did you go? And sneak in?
GD: Because he seemed in low spirits.
F.OUND: So it seems you went to raise his spirits?
GD: I went more to pleasantly surprise him than to raise his spirits. Because Seungri is wrapping up his promotions and I’m making my comeback, relatively few staff are accompanying Seungri and the majority are with me. I guess Seungri was a little upset about it. He seemed worn down because of that, so I specifically made time to go see him.
F.OUND: Hearing that, I think that you’ve become more relaxed than before…
GD: A lot more. Back then, I hurried while looking only ahead, but now I can afford to look backwards. My whole life is like that now, too. I have more flexibility in how I live.
F.OUND: It seems that you’ve now adjusted to living a busy life, splitting your time among work, broadcasts, and performances.
GD: For sure. I’ve already been used to it for a few years.
F.OUND: A lot of idol groups have debuted since BIGBANG’s debut. What makes BIGBANG “BIGBANG”?
GD: The stage makes BIGBANG. When we’re not BIGBANG, each of us has our own charm when we’re doing solo activities, but it’s BIGBANG that stands on stage. We ourselves feel like there’s a big difference. There’s some power that you can’t really put into words. We’re all different, and I think those differences become a merit when we promote as a group. Those merits have polished us and raised us to the top as BIGBANG.
Right now, we’re all doing our own activities, but when we go on stage as BIGBANG there’s a tremendous energy. I think that energy gives people the impression like, “Ah, of course that was BIGBANG!” I’ve finished a big tour by myself, and even if my album were a big hit, if we return as BIGBANG then I could forget all these things. That’s what makes BIGBANG different from other idol groups. It’s also what gives us our popular appeal. There’s something that we can only show if BIGBANG stands on stage as five people.
F.OUND: It’s been 8 years. How much longer do you think BIGBANG can last?
GD: Um… I don’t know. I want it to go on for a really long time, but you never know. As always, there are a variety of problems that we’d have to solve.
F.OUND: Problems? What kind of problems?
GD: We still haven’t gone to the military. I don’t know how that problem would play out as a variable. And also, each of us is increasing our position with regards to the solo activities we’ve begun. If in the past, we were people who were nothing without BIGBANG, then right now we honestly have the power to survive even without BIGBANG. In this situation, I think that the key determinant will be how much each member cares about BIGBANG. If we can continue caring about it, then BIGBANG will last for a long time, but if not then of course we might get tangled up with some other problems like that ones that have broken apart other idol groups.
F.OUND: You’re speaking very realistically.
GD: Fortunately, for now we have absolutely no problems. But I think that we have to live through the next 3-4 years in order to see our future.
F.OUND: Honestly speaking, I thought that with this album, it might be difficult for you to continue moving forward as BIGBANG. Your last album seemed like “a solo album made by the leader of BIGBANG,” but with this album I’m saying that you’ve risen to the level of a solo artist. It’s not an external problem like having to go to the military, but if you end up going on the path of being a solo artist, then that itself could be a decisive influence in BIGBANG’s fate.
GD: I don’t worry about that, because the members have a lot of jealousy. If a member does something, then the other members get jealous of his achievement.
F.OUND: I would assume that you’d have considerable influence in that respect.
GD: It’s also because I do things in this way in order to show it off to the other members. I’m doing it like this now, aren’t I? Next time, whether it’s a member making an album or us doing it as BIGBANG, the internal motto will be “Let’s beat the last thing that was done.” Not beating it in terms of things like sales, but in terms of wanting to receive acknowledgement from the people closest to us. When I’m doing my concerts alone, I don’t care if some other person comes, but if they say that a BIGBANG member is coming, I’m nervous that day. Because they’re friends who go on stage just like I do, it’s more nerve-wracking. When I go on stage, I tell myself over and over that I’m the best. I indoctrinate myself with thoughts like, “I’m the best, so I don’t care what anyone else says,” because I have to do that in order to act like I’m the best on stage. But BIGBANG has always been the same on that level. What I’m saying shifts. Because I’m the best, but they’re also the best. That’s why I’m the most nervous [on days when BIGBANG members are watching], and I feel burdened. They’re the people closest to me, but the ones I’m most afraid of?
F.OUND: That might be because you have a relationship where you can point out each other’s flaws.
GD: That’s right. It’s because they can point out the things that other people can’t sense well, or can’t put into words. I’m like that as well.
F.OUND: It seems like Taeyang, who is expected to make his comeback next month, will also feel a lot of pressure. (Laughs)
GD: He won’t show it, but he’ll be gritting his teeth. Because Seungri and I were like that, too. It’s a really great stimulus. So if we think that we’re better than other teams, then we can be better than them. Actually, I don’t know how other teams are, but we have competitiveness ingrained in us like a habit through our survival show. I think that’s a great habit for a singer to have.
F.OUND: I remember a long time ago you said that you want to become an artist like Seo Taeji. How about now?
GD: Do I want to become like that?
F.OUND: I’m asking because it seems you’ve reached that level already. In some ways, you’re better.
GD: I don’t think there’s a comparison. I want to become a rockstar now.
F.OUND: A rockstar?
GD: One who really does tours. When I say that I’m holding a concert, one who sufficiently justifies the price of a concert ticket even for people who live really far away.
F.OUND: You know it’s like that now, too.
GD: I’m still lacking. Now, even if I say that I’m doing a “world tour,” it just means LA, New York and London in addition to Asia. I want to go to more places and meet more people. Like that, I want to become a rockstar that people from all over the world can come to see. In the past, I only wanted to become a rapper, but now I think I had better become a rockstar who raps.
F.OUND: Um, if that’s the case then I think you’d have to hold more concerts first, and do longer tours.
GD: That’s right.
F.OUND: It’d be nice if you toured more, but the fact that you’re too busy here is a shame. But of course, it’s something you have to do. If you look back later on, with which words do you hope your current self will be remembered?
GD: I hope that I’ll hold some kind of unbroken record. I hope there won’t be any kids in the next generation who’ll break that record. (Laughs) Although I’d also be happy if someone has to break that record for the sake of cultural development. (Laughs) Like the way that I think “Ah, I won’t be able to beat that record” when I look at PSY-hyung, or the way that artists who’ve been classified as legends like Michael Jackson have something that’s uniquely their own, I hope that I’ll also have something like that. I hope that many people would be able to look at my career, and validate and acknowledge it.
F.OUND: Do you think that someone can become a musician like GD through hard work?
GD: Someone could do it well enough.
F.OUND: But you have inborn talent?
GD: So they’d just have to work harder. There are a lot of survival programs these days. There are many kids who are more talented than I am. I think it’s definitely possible if they just work hard. But of course, apart from talent, hard work, and time, I also had “luck.” A great many things fell into place for me. If I went on a survival program now, I’d probably fail?
GD: I’m serious, if I look at back at what brought me to this point. Over the course of 8 years, my carefully-cultivated image, my skills, my talent, my exterior appearance that makes some degree of a favorable impression, as well as whatever strength made me acceptable in people’s eyes, and the background of “YG,” all mixed together in some way or another. On top of that, even my luck was good. A variety of things fell into place favorably for me. If I threw away everything I have right now, and applied for a survival program? Whether in my view, I’d do well enough to get into the top 10? I’m not confident that I’d pass. That’s why I hope that there will be juniors who are considerably better than me. When that will happen, I’m not sure.
F.OUND: Do you think that a star could be made through that kind of survival program?
GD: Honestly, no. But the level is certainly high. They do passably well, and it’s good. It’s just that there isn’t someone who does extraordinarily well. That kind of person who possesses something extraordinary is probably already doing something somewhere? Or they’re gritting their teeth for the sake of accomplishing something. Because since birth, there’s people who are different in that way. You know that I’ve danced since I was 6 years old. Kids that do well when they’re 12 or 13 must walk a different path from kids that discovered their talent younger than that.
F.OUND: Recently, the new <WIN> survival program started at YG. They’re debuting through a similar process as you, so it seems you’d feel some sentimental emotion.
GD: They’re the first idol group debuting after BIGBANG, so I would hope they do well, but I’m worried because they still aren’t that good.
F.OUND: Do you tend to give a lot of advice?
GD: Yes. At the very least, I tend to answer everything they ask me. Because I remember the days when I was in that position. The senior who was right above me was Dongwookie-hyung (Se7en), and hyung really looked out me. I wasn’t eating well, so he’d buy me meat to eat. Because I’ve made it here receiving that kind of care, I definitely intend to give my juniors words of encouragement, even if it’s a little bit.
F.OUND: I thought you’d be a scary senior. (Laughs)
GD: Up to this point, I haven’t acted scarily. Although if there were a situation where I have to be like that, it’d be my responsibility. I’m anticipating their debut, but it’d be nice if the kids made it so that I could anticipate a little more. It’s just that there’s interest because they’re the first team debuting after BIGBANG, but I guess they can’t draw anticipation through their skills.
F.OUND: Does GD also dream the dreams that normal guys do?
GD: What kind of dreams do normal guys dream?
F.OUND: Well, like getting married, and having a family?
GD: Of course. I also talk a lot with the BIGBANG members. Who among us will get married first? These kinds of talks. Also the conversations about girls that guys have when they meet up, we often talk just like that.
F.OUND: I said that I was meeting GD, so the F.OUND staff wondered what kinds of things GD usually does on a daily basis. (Laughs)
GD: You know me. It’s the same.
F.OUND: Studio, home, home, studio?
GD: Yes. Although now, I know a thing or two about drinking alcohol, so when I have time I drink alcohol, too. Really when I have more time, I also watch movies, and I travel even if it’s for a short while.
F.OUND: When you’re really having a hard time, and you feel like you can’t do all the production work and whatever else, how do you solve that problem?
GD: I have a chat. I’ve left all my work and talked with Teddy-hyung for 12 hours before. (Laughs)
F.OUND: What kind of story will be written on the next page of GD’s life?
GD: I think the breadth of the story on the next page will get bigger. If it’s been Korea and Asia up until now, wouldn’t the next page stretch out to encompass a somewhat larger background and more stories? I think I’ll go deeper with regards to America and Europe, which I talked about earlier. Through music and the stage, I want to go and see a lot more places.
Before ‘Crooked’, which was the last recording for today, GD put on a Sex Pistols t-shirt and well-fitting black pants. ‘Crooked,’ which has the joyfully running and rebellious punk rock image, surprisingly fit very well with GD, who occupies the cultural mainstream. It felt like hearing, through song, his dangerous and crooked image, which has always seemed distant from that of a “nice idol.” GD said that ‘Crooked’ was envisioned and written to be a song with a feeling like the movie ‘Trainspotting’. I got a feeling of satisfaction when he sang the lyrics “I spit at the sky” while standing on stage. I also felt like that when ‘Nilliriya’ came on in the Cheongdamdong gallery showing his photographs and collector’s items in the <Space8> exhibit. When the folk song-like “nilliriya~” played before the start of Missy Elliot and GD’s rap verses, out of shame, I couldn’t bear to put feeling into words. I, who had scorned our formulaic popular culture, and to some degree seem to have been stuck in that framework. GD didn’t just break his own framework though ‘Coup d’Etat’, but he also ceaselessly incited and provoked the people watching and hearing those things to break out of their shells.
As always, the public reaction to GD is at two extremes. There are evaluations that with this album GD is no longer fresh, and there are people applauding even more strongly his musical development. Remembering Yoo Seyun’s parody of GD on <SNL Korea> a while back, it seems like, as always, there are many factions who can’t understand his music and behaviour. But with this album, I would only like to talk about the way that he went on a new path as a serious artist who defied expectations. GD will no longer play the same old game. He will become more daring, and more powerful, standing on a bigger stage, more cleverly and more crookedly, but also more gracefully.
translation by @kwonaventure